Clay ? for you

Real simple, yes or no or need more time answer…

As you and the staff are putting together the Football preview… are you liking the team?

Its year 5 for coach B and coach Herd, year 3 for coach Enos… Austin is a 5th year, I think it is going to come together…

My feeling is that the team will have a similar record to last year. There are a lot of question marks with a first-year defensive coordinator, loss of the top rusher and loss of the top receivers.

I do think the losses will be more competitive. I’d be surprised to see so many blowouts again.

Just before Spurrier lucked into his best few years at Usce he said he guessed he was just a 7-win ball coach.

That appears to be where Bielema is slotted right now, plus or minus a game either way in “good” and “bad” years.

It’s why, for the life of me, I can’t figure out why the basketball program doesn’t get more attention and support (with similar results).

It is much more realistic for us to be a Top 10 basketball program sooner than it is for football to be a consistent Top 20 (and top quarter of Sec) football program.

100 percent agree.

I agree. It should always be easier for Arkansas to win in basketball. But Arkansas has always been a football first. I think football appeals to a wider base. Just like basketball appeals to more people than most, if not all, of the remaining sports. I like most all Arkansas sports but must admit I don’t know much about the gymnastics team or even track and field, and we win championships in that. I am always interested to hear how all of the sports teams do, but I’ll read about football before I will basketball unless we’re in the midst of basketball conference play. I just think that’s the nature of the beast. But you are most definitely right: basketball can get into the upper echelon and stay there before football will.

In basketball, one player can be a game & season changer–like Steph Curry at Davidson. A single great player can help overcome average play by the other players, although you really must have good balance to win championships. In football, you can’t afford to have glaring weaknesses at any position. And, while recruiting is tough in all sports, getting that one or two great players in basketball is easier than getting 5-10 great players in football. The downside of basketball “great” players is that they are one and done too often, unlike football, where the rules are different for going pro. In the end, you must have talent and coaching and often, just a bit of luck thrown in. But, as Jefferson is often quoted (rightly or not): “I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.”

There was a time when not many in the SEC (or SWC) tried in basketball. Frank Broyles figured out it could be profitable to try in basketball. He was ahead of the game in doing that, as he was in most things. But, there are many others trying in basketball now. Just because you try (and Arkansas does), will not make you successful. Just as it is easy to get there at Arkansas with just a few players, so is it that easy at anywhere else. I think you are going to see Missouri make a quick jump with their new coach and some real home runs in recruiting. So just trying doesn’t make it easy in basketball anymore because so does most everyone else in the SEC. Because there is so much money coming in from football, it’s easy to move some of that to basketball.

Without question, Arkansas fans still are primarily football first. There are many who also love basketball. But the same people who I see at basketball games, I know are also big football fans. They are not JUST basketball fans. If I take the time to mill about in the concourse before or at halftime at basketball games, I’ll walk up to someone I know and they are very likely talking about football recruiting or the prospects of football. And, that’s always been the case even when basketball was truly rolling.

I think a lot of what I see and hear from being around football – and I’ve been around it a lot of late in working on the football preview – there is excitement about this season. They think they are better and fixed some of the issues with the offensive line. They also think they will be better on defense. They think they will get more pressure from the outside in pass rush, a major problem last year. It will be because the variety of pressures available from the four linebackers, one who will be that fourth rusher on every play. They also think they will be better at stopping the run, especially on the outside. There is still a thin nature of this team at linebacker and in the secondary, the reason things slipped so badly on defense with Dre Greenlaw and Kevin Richardson out. Britto Tutt and the freshmen coming in to help with the secondary improves the back end. I think Santos Ramirez is so much better as a tackler, too. The big development in the spring was the competition at nose tackle, which finally made Bijhon Jackson kick it in to another gear.

I think the schedule is doable. It’s tough and I don’t like having the open date so early. But that might help the defense get more time to learn the system. There are gaps early that are going to allow for lots of teaching with two new coaches on defense in a new system. That’s probably good.

Austin Allen said there are new wrinkles on offense that still need polish. The wide receivers are probably faster and bigger overall than last year, but they are still learning how to run perfect routes. They have to get that down this summer, but I expect they will. That’s what summer is for. Receivers who don’t run perfect routes – and understand the option concepts in this system – lead to interceptions and incomplete passes. Can Austin’s completion percentage go up from 61.1? It might with better pass protection.

All in all, I’m not ready to make a prediction. There is just no use doing that when you don’t know enough about the other teams. I’ve been deep in Arkansas football. I can’t tell you much about the teams on the schedule right now other than who has quarterbacks back. And, that’s not nearly enough information, although I hear national guys make predictions based on almost entirely that. It would be a mistake to do that. I’ll let them do the talking with just a little information. Not me.

I see that the early over-under from Vegas is seven. That’s probably a good number. So if you can’t take seven (and take a push), I’d go for eight (not six). I’m not saying that’s my prediction, but that’s what I’d take right now. I think if things fall right and the defense improves (big if) this team could beat eight. It should have won nine last year and this team is at least as good (probably better) than last year.

FYI, our football preview went to the printer last night. There is good stuff there. I got really good information from both Dan Enos and Paul Rhoads on the player evaluations. It seemed each spent more time doing it this year. There is some leftover stuff that I’m going to use for a column this week. I’m writing it this morning. It’s mainly from the defensive side.

The magazine will be printed today and tomorrow. It’s 84 pages and that can’t be done in one day. It has to have special stitching since it’s perfect bound (and not just stapled in the middle). It’s glued together with a four-page wrap that has the outer cover UV coated (to give it that extra slick appearance). So that’s a two-day process. I’m guessing it will be mailed Friday.

I’m always excited to be done with this one. It kind of starts me into summer mode and able to enjoy the finish to baseball and track. It also may allow me to take a trip or two. I know if I’m going to do any wade fishing to cast my flies, it will have to be away from here. We’ve had so much rain that our lakes are at almost full capacity. So the generation will be heavy all summer. That knocks me out of wade fishing. I don’t own a boat, although my son-in-law does.

Louis Campbell, my best friend, says we are going to fish more this summer since he’s retired. He’s got a trout boat with oars. And, we’ll take turns oaring each other. I was excited to see his name appear on the Hall of Honor list last week. It’s much deserved, although I’m clearly biased. I was told that he actually was voted in three years ago (and I knew that at the time and never told him). But since he was coaching high school football and couldn’t come on a Friday night, it was pushed back until his retirement this year. That was a hard secret to keep, but I did it.

Thank you for this observation. There has been some impatience with the speed of progress that the basketball team has made under Coach Anderson. He is competing in a different world than Sutton and Richardson did. I like the way you said it, “not many in the SEC (or SWC) tried in basketball.”

If you determine “trying” based on budget, or dollars spent on the sport, my understanding is we fall around 9th or 10th in football (in the SEC), and better than that in basketball. I think I’ve seen an estimate that we may be around 3rd or 4th in basketball (I’m not at all sure about this). I would think any time you perform better than those numbers on the field/court you’ve had a good season. Razorback fans expect the football team to do better than 9th or 10th, and expect the basketball team to be better than 3rd or 4th. It’s just the nature of being a fan.

I think the Arkansas thought has always been to try to get more with less. It’s our nature. And, because our state is primarily behind just one program, it’s possible. The Razorback brand is about that. I see good things happening across the board. I believe that the money invested in the foundation of the program – facilities, infrastructure for academics – is paying dividends. The program is healthy. I think football will get a surge from the new facilities, both academics and in the north end zone. I believe that baseball is getting a surge from the new facilities. I think coaches like Wes Johnson and Tony Vitello (master recruiters) are taking advantage of the facilities. Baseball recruiting is unique. It often takes three years for the fruits of recruiting to fall in place. Arkansas is committing kids who cannot drive a car right now – because of the good baseball facilities. Think about that; your ability to be successful in baseball depends on how well you relate to ninth graders. Wow.

Thanks Clay. Very good and of coursed informed insight. Oh, you can come out here and wade - in a few weeks.

My expectations are probably not fair baised on $ spent as noted in the Post above but it is still what they are. I expect basketball to be either first or second in the SEC. Sure, there are other good teams besides KY, but so what? We should beat them more times than not. I also expect to compete with KY.

I have football expectations and I am sure they are not fair. After the mess last year, I am not sure what I expect (different than expectations). My expectations is for Arkansas to compete with every team they play. I understand the schedule and the SEC. So what? I expect us to win more than we lose against all but Bama and LSU and I expect us to compete against them and win every once in a while. We did not compete at all last year in many games and that is totally unacceptable. That must change. They did not even get off the bus at Auburn. Bama was bad. LSU toyed with them. LaTech was better and should have won. MO, MO of all people ran them off the field in the second half. They should beat MO at least 8 out of 10 times. MSU scored at will, but so did we. Then there was the Bowl game. That was as bad as a team can play in the 2nd half. They should have walked home or at least wore pink.

Baseball expectations are for top 2-3 at least in the SEC. Really simple.

Track - Never ever lose to anyone in any meet - Is that high enough?

I don’t have expectation for the other sports other than if it says ARKANSAS or Hogs or Razorbacks on their uniform, I expect them to compete hard and with CLASS.

Fair? - of course not, but I am a fan. I understand that.

Unfair? Absolutely, at least when it comes to every meet. Really? WIN EVERY MEET? Wow. But I do agree with you that we ought to be competitive in every sport and win our share of games: 9 to 10 in football occasionally, occasionally only 7. Top 2 in basketball? Sometimes. Top 1 in basketball hopefully some. Top 3 at least the majority of times. Baseball win the West occasionally. But we have to adjust our expectations sometimes, not to accept mediocrity but to be realistic.
The basketball program looks good for the next few years. Baseball is back on the upswing. Track is, well, track and they are doing well. Softball looks better but needs to keep improving. Women’s basketball has a long ways to go but has a good coach. Football? Needs to get better … one way or the other.
But I get it. You’re a fan. You have every right to your expectations. And I’m really just playing with you about them. When fans quit caring, the athletic program is in a bad, bad place!

Not a pretty picture for Year 5 of Bielema’s tenure.

Come on man! Minimum of ten years needed to build a program. Give him time!

In my opinion, the loss of RW III and the Receivers is a blow but we had all of them last year and it didn’t matter with a mediocre Oline. Tendencies of any run game are known BUT it doesn’t matter if your Oline is good enough to push everyone but Bama back. It all rides on the Oline every year but this year is most critical for the Oline. If the Oline steps up (I think they will) then we could overcome a lot of maturity issues at WR and RB. Our Oline talent looks good on paper and many of the players have starting experience. I think they got embarrassed last year and they are pissed off. 3 Oline spots were the issue last year - RG - Raulerson was injured early, Gibson was new. RT- Jackson and Wallace were first year or Freshman. LG- Froholdt is a DT converted to Oline. I think these 3 spots will be strengths this year. We scored at a good rate last year with AA over compensating for most Oline play until the cheap shots at Auburn.

We have the best QB in the conference when it comes to reading a defense, finding the barely open guy, and the arm to accurately get it to him. Now we have talent at WR and some at TE that could perform at a high level. We left TJ Hammonds at WR which says something after RWIII retiring. I think Enos wants to show that we can be a strong passing team in this offense. If the receivers and Oline step up then it comes together into a stronger passing element that will cause DC’s different headaches in addition to our run game. We had to deal with a lot of corner and safety blitzes last year and that could be negated if all of this comes together.

I think the Defense concerns all of us. I worry about what happens if Ramsey gets hurt. He is central to our success in the new 3-4 and we have shallow talent at LB. We have some good talent on the line but limited experience behind them. Can Agim make the big step up after his freshman year to create break downs in the Oline like Philon or Flowers could? Our defense will be new to DC’s so that could help us early until the tendencies show up on film. Conversely, we could outscore a lot of people this year to off-set a bad defense. If AA has decent to good protection against the good SEC teams then our offense could be deadly and carry us.

Very good post,
Defense, what we dealt with last year, so vanilla & the break downs also. If the coaches can reduce or illuminate a lot of Defense’s woes and get the players to believe they are better than what was on the field last year along with a new system that may take a few games for opponents to figure out, by the then their confidence level is there.
Stay healthy.

Offense, as you mentioned, an experienced, more mature & deeper OLine should improve. Then most everything else will fall into place. Yes we probably have the best QB in league that gets no love, but who cares about love just perform and he does.
Stay healthy.

I expect the offense to be top notch. The key is to be good at quarterback and offensive line. That’s the place you start with every team. The defense is headed in the right direction with the change to the 3-4 and with some of those injured returning (Greenlaw and Richardson). I think linebacker play will be improved, but the thin nature of the linebackers still worries me. That should be improved, but not where I want to be. The 3-4 should put a faster team on the field, replacing a linemen with a linebacker and putting him in a 2-point stance.

Do you think we will pass more this year with a great QB and losses at RB?

Losses are big at wide receiver, too. I do not think passing more is the answer. I think passing well is the answer. I think this team will be able to run better and that sets up everything. Being able to pass means the defense will be forced to play the past and will help the running. That’s what I expect to happen.

A good running game will help this defense more than you can ever imagine.